What Makes a Bike Advocacy Organization Great?

So I’ve been thinking about bike advocacy and what makes the great ones great? I’m sure I don’t have everything (or even close to it,) but these are the things I think should be in an advocacy groups plans.

  • Education: Probably the most important spoke on the wheel. To me, this means education not only of the people who ride bikes, but also anyone who can, will, or may impact them. It means that the general public needs to be shown the business, health, psychological and spiritual benefits of riding under your own power. It means that people who drive cars (or other fossil burning transport) need to know the true rights and responsibilities of all road users: people who drive, people who bike, and people who walk. Further, the business community and all levels of government need to be made aware of the financial and economic benefits of bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure. And it means that the advocacy organization needs to be educated on what the community wants/needs and how best to obtain it. Which leads to”
  • Monitoring: What plans or projects are coming up in the community? Does the transportation/planning department have an open door that will allow us to get in on the ground floor of these projects? If not, how do we stick our foot in? How about legislation? Is the city council, county commission, or state legislature considering changes to laws or ordinances that will impact how we use our bicycles? Do we know how/who to contact to find out? Do we have a game plan in place to make our voices heard? Can we reach out to the US Congress when they’re considering changes to transportation funding?
  • Outreach: Once we know the projects being considered, do we have ways to contact and work with neighborhood organizations or business communities in those areas? Do we have a presentation that will let them know we want to work together for the greatest common good? Can we accept gracefully that not every community will share our vision?
  • Collaboration: Are there groups in the area whose mission merges or complements our own? Do we have contacts within that group? Are we/they ready to work together to reach our goals? What about organizations at higher levels? Are there state or national groups who seek to improve the status of people who ride bikes? Are we members of those organizations? If not, why not?
  • Grassroots: Do we have a following? Will they activate when we need them to, volunteer for our events, show support when we meet with legislators? How can we attract and keep them with us?

So these are the questions I ask about advocacy organizations. Now I’m working on answers and solutions to those questions. I’m sure there are things I’ve missed, so please help me out. If you think of something, please include it in your comments below, because any organization is only as good as the people it serves.


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